SPRINGFIELD, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 1, 2012 was a bright, sunny day at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and God was surely smiling. Despite the tradition of only naming military buildings after deceased national heroes, an exception was made to allow an unusual and moving tribute for a living American hero. The facility housing the U.S. Naval Chaplaincy School and Center was named "Stanley J. Beach Hall," in honor of the former director of what was then called the Naval Chaplains School. A "living legend" in the Navy Chaplain Corps, Beach is also the MOPH National Chaplain.
Beach retired as a Navy Captain in 1987 after more than 30 years of service. However, the one assignment that literally “left a mark” on the chaplain was a combat tour in Vietnam when he was assigned to the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines. On 28 September 1966, Beach was seriously wounded during “Operation Prairie” alongside another young Marine, Sgt. Bill Hutton, when the 3rd Battalion was engaged in pushing back the NVA’s 324th Division on Mutter’s Ridge. While continually traversing the battlefield, ministering to wounded Marines and carrying them to the rear for medical treatment, Beach sustained severe leg and stomach injuries which ultimately led to the loss of his leg. During his seven months in the combat zone, he had distinguished himself as a “”Chaplain of Marines”, and earned him the Bronze Star for Valor, the Navy Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He served another 21 years after that event in various roles and levels of ministry and leadership, and for the cumulative record of both courage and selfless ministry was honored by appending his name and legacy to the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center.
During the dedication ceremony, Chaplain (Rear Adm.) Mark Tidd, Chief of Navy Chaplains, noted that "For nearly half a century, Chaplain Beach's name has been synonymous with dedication to duty and selfless service. He's been for many of us a shining example of the very best of naval chaplaincy. His impact on countless Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen is literally beyond measure." Admiral Tidd added that he first met Beach when he was the Director of the Chaplain’s school. "We as students did not appreciate then what we know now -- that we were in the presence of a living legend," Tidd said. "Chaplain Beach was unfailingly kind to us with a kindness that appreciated our eagerness to learn. And he always encouraged us to learn to do better. In his presence we had the sense that this was someone who truly knew what it meant to be a Navy Chaplain."
Roger Kimble, president of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Association, recalled Beach's heroics in Vietnam. Kimble said the Chaplain would often put himself in harm's way to minister to his troops. "According to Kimble, he once overheard another Marine very appropriately say, “Chaplain Beach is the John Wayne of Chaplains," On behalf of the members of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Association, many of whom attended the ceremony, Kimble and Admiral Tidd, unveiled the bronze plaque donated by the Association, designating the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center building the Stanley J. Beach Hall, as Beach and his wife Ellen looked on. The plaque will remain on permanent display at the Chaplaincy School and Center.
Reflecting on the proud heritage of the Navy Chaplains Corps, which includes chaplains who have died in combat and those who have received the Medal of Honor, Beach said he was honored to have the facility named for him. "It is such a privilege to have my name even associated with some of those courageous and sacrificial chaplains," Beach said.
One of the attendees, Chaplain Anthony Trapani, said, “I could not think of a finer man to be so honored. He was the finest Chaplain I ever met and I am so proud to have been a part of his life.” Truly, Chaplain Stanley Beach’s ministry career was a model of Naval Chaplaincy by means of outstanding service in all of the areas in which the Navy Chaplain Corps provides ministry and pastoral care: the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, through veteran service, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance. Through the VAVS Program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and State Veterans Homes.